Scenes: The Skeleton of a Novel

skeleton copy

You’re a human being: you can stand up, sit down, or do a somersault. That’s because you have a skeleton that gives your soft tissue a structure. Likewise, it’s important to give your novel a structure that will hold all the soft murmurings about characters, places and events. It begins with understanding the structure of […]

Thanks, Optimus Prime: What the Transformers Can Teach Us About Plot


I am writing a science-fiction trilogy and I’d like it to have general appeal to kids and teens. So, recently, I went to see the new Transformers 4: Age of Extinction to see what I could learn. Here’s one of the official movie trailers. If you can’t see this video, click here. Transformer’s Major Plot […]

5 Quotes to Plot Your Novel By


I am currently slogging through plot development of a new series of novels. Here are some helpful quotes. “A plot is just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what.” Margaret Atwood. It is hard to narrow down the possibilities of a story to a particular “WHAT happened next?”. It is […]

Timelines: Plotting


When you are deep into plotting a new novel or especially, a series, timelines are your friends. It’s a tool that will help straighten out the details and create order. Obviously, a time line lays out the time period of your novel. Does it take place in 24 hours or does it span 24 years? […]

Master Plot for Pacing, Characterization and Action

Where would you insert a 3-chapter, self-contained subplot that is mostly an action sequence?

Somewhere in your writer’s head is a Master Plot, an idea of what a story or novel should be like, how it should progress. For writers who don’t outline–the write-by-the-seat-of-their-pants writers–the Master Plot is hard-wired into their brains. For the rest of us, the idea of a Master Plot is helpful. Hero’s Journey. The hero’s […]

Bad, Worse, Worst: Plan your Plots

Every scene must end in disaster. Really? EVERY scene? OK. Most scenes. I only say that every scene must end in disaster because if I give writers wriggle room, they run with it. So, yes, let’s work on the premise that every scene must end in disaster. What disaster? How do you choose? Progressions. In […]

Why Now? Believable Plots


One question that is often overlooked in plotting is “Why Now?” Let’s say you want your character to decide to complain to the principal about someone bullying them. OK. Great. It’s surely time Emily got some spunk and got Jeremy off her back. But why now? It must be explained by actions and motivations that […]

PLOT: You MUST be Brutal

When your character walks through the doorway to Failure, your plot really gets going.

The biggest problem I have in planning a plot–still, after all these years–is that I am too nice to my characters. I can’t imagine the horrible things that need to happen, without a big struggle. Listen up: What is the worst thing that could happen to your character? It MUST happen at the climax of […]

2 Questions to Develop Plot: What If? and What Next?


While I am struggling with plot, the main question I am asking is “What if?”, closely followed by “What next?” What if? Creative plots focus on an unexpected combination of events that somehow manage to mesh together at the end when all is revealed. Plots can be about vengeance, catastrophe, love & hate, chase, grief […]

Plotting is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle


I always find that plotting a novel or longer story is like a jigsaw puzzle. How do you work a jigsaw puzzle? People have different strategies. Some like to find all the straight edges and get the borders in place. Others like to find a strong bit of color and start putting together an interesting […]

Enrich a Story Plot

Last week I was wondering if I could combine two plots into one. One idea was for an Event and one for Characters. While I still think they could have meshed, the character story took off on it’s own into a short story. Now the question is what to do with the Event idea, how […]

Novel Pacing=Constant Change


Finishing up the series on plot: We’ve talked about the outline level of plot, plotting with scenes and now we’re at a finer granular level as we talk about pacing of a novel. Pacing Helps Plot Succeed Nick Lowe, in his article, The Well-Tempered Plot Device, criticizes many well-loved fantasy novels because of their use […]

10 Checkpoints for Scenes

Do NOT Pass Go Until You've Passed this Check List

Does your Scene Pass this Checklist? Where/When. (Setting) Did you orient the reader at the beginning of the scene? Does the reader know where this takes place: room in house, city, state, country, etc? Does the reader know when this takes place: time of day, season of year, place within chronology of story? If the […]